The University of Minnesota has taken an important and bold step toward creating equity in education by offering free or discounted tuition to many of its Native American students.
Much of Minnesota belonged to Native Americans before the white settlement of the 1800s. Treaties to trade land for goods and food between Native Americans and white settlers, such as the Traverse des Sioux Treaty, were fraudulent and deceptive.
At one time, federal law required Native Americans be vanquished from the state.
While white society can never pay reparations equal to harm done to Native Americans, it’s time white society started paying some of what Native Americans are due.
The university has long had a policy of providing free tuition to students at its Morris campus due to it being the site of a Native American boarding school with a troubled history. But now, the free tuition will apply to all university campuses. The free tuition will go to families who have household incomes under $75,000 per year and tuition will be reduced by 80% to 90% for those who earn up to $125,000.
The program will begin in fall of 2022, and annual tuition at the university is about $15,000 a year.
Free tuition is a good start, but Native American leaders said they would like to see all Native Americans, not just enrolled members of 11 Minnesota tribes, be eligible.
The program will not only give Native Americans access to higher education in numbers that were not possible before, but it also will allow Native American voices and culture to grow in higher education.
We would urge the Minnesota State system of university and community colleges to offer a similar plan. Such a plan would be even more appropriate for Minnesota State University and South Central College, as they were established in a city with the troubled history of the unjust hanging of the 38 Dakota at the end of the U.S.-Dakota War, and the largest mass execution in U.S. history.
The University of Minnesota effort to lower barriers to Native Americans getting higher education in the state is a good start to creating educational equity that has been lacking for generations.